The Architecture of Music

The Circle of Fifths

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The Linear Circle of Fifths Diagram

Tremendous thought and many design iterations went into the linear circle of fifths diagram. The boxes act much like a ruler to help describe the harmonic intervals of chords and scales. If the design were just a line with equal hash marks the harmonic intervals of the notes would be difficult to identify. Much like a ruler has larger hash marks for inches and progressively smaller hash marks for 1/2”, 1/4”, 1/8” and so on, the boxes help to demarcate the harmonic intervals. In a chord, scale, or progression, notes further away from each other along the circle sound more resonant than notes closer together.

To create music that sounds in consonance, chords and progressions should be limited to four steps or less ascending or descending around the circle, indicated by the large central box. However, notes further away hold a closer harmonic relationship to each other and the medium boxes indicate eight harmonic intervals equivalent to the large central box centered around the note opposite the central (or bass) note or an aug4 interval. If you want to make more dissonant music, make progressions or use notes further away. However, it is possible to make harmonious progressions to the further notes by working your way around the circle to them. One of the things the book teaches is how to do this.

Linear Circle of Fifths Diagram

The linear circle of fifths is a helpful tool with chords as it helps visually describe what a chord will sound like and in scales as it helps describe how to play them. The linear circle of fifths diagram of a scale can also quickly and easily be used to identify a scale when compared to the scales in the greater organization of all scales chart in the Organizing All The Scales portion of this tutorial.